The Ayurvedic system is a whole-body approach to wellness, so it’s no surprise that its ancient texts contain advice on how to use Ayurvedic herbs for hair. These herbs help keep your hair looking healthy and vibrant. And, let’s face it, most of us need a little boost in the tresses after the year we’ve had.
While the hair you see on your body is no longer alive, so to speak, the follicles that produce it need to be kept in optimum shape. Once they’re damaged, they stop producing those healthy, shiny locks. And your strands need to be treated with care in order to keep them in good condition or even heal the damage caused by pollution, chemicals, and heat.
The Roots of Holistic Hair Care
Lisa Mattam, the founder of the evidence-based Ayurvedic beauty brand Sahajan reminds us that Ayurvedic beauty solutions aren’t just things you slather on your body. “For skin and hair, I think it’s about understanding that you can address radiance and beauty from the outside and the inside,” she says. And when asked about the support her brand has received from mainstream medical experts, she said it’s been nothing but positive: “I think what we’re seeing in the medical community in general is an acknowledgment that an Eastern philosophy and an Eastern lifestyle are important in preventive medicine, in disease management, and in my world—in beauty.”
[Read: “6 Ayurvedic Practices to Rejuvenate Your Eyes.”]
The Ayurvedic system is based on the concept of keeping the three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—in balance. All wellness issues therefore stem from an imbalance in these energies. It is believed that vata can weaken and dehydrate your body, leading to irritation in your scalp, brittle hair, and hair loss from damaged follicles. Stress and over-styling can lead to an imbalance in the vata and pitta doshas. Pitta is associated with heat, and too much of it can lead to inflammation and hair thinning. The pitta dosha tends to be dominant up until middle age, after which the kapha dosha usually needs to be addressed. Kapha tends to aggravate your body and scalp by producing too much sebum, clogging pores and slowing down the spread of nutrients.
[Read: “Dosha-licious: Kaphalicious.”]
It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and how you’re feeling, taking into account any environmental stressors or bad habits (such as smoking) that might lead to an imbalance so you can choose the right herbs for the job.
You should always talk to a medical practitioner about issues like hair loss (in the event such issues are caused by an underlying condition) or before ingesting any of these Ayurvedic herbs. Still, there are some topical at-home solutions you can try on your own.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Hair
Bhringraj (Eclipta Alba) has been clinically tested for its hair growth potential, going head-to-head against minoxidil (aka Rogaine). In rats, the extract increased the average number of hair follicles by 50 percent and caused hair to regrow in less time than its pharmaceutical counterpart. More commonly, leaves from the bhringraj plant are mixed and heated with a carrier oil to produce bhringraj oil for use at home. It also has antimicrobial and antifungal properties that can relieve dandruff and any other scalp irritations.
Shikakai (Senegalia rugata) is loaded with vitamins A, C, D, K, E, antioxidants, minerals, and micronutrients. It’s like a superfood for your hair. The Ayurvedic herb is said to cleanse and promote sebum secretion on your scalp to soothe dryness and prevent flaking. It also fights any fungus or bacteria that might inhibit hair growth. You might see it included in cleaners, hair masks, and hair oils.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) and Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) are common ingredients in natural haircare products and can help you out when your scalp produces too much sebum, which causes oily locks and clogged pores and inhibits new hair growth. Neem and tulsi extracts can be combined with a carrier oil, or powdered versions can be mixed with water to form a paste. Massage either into the scalp to promote circulation and help exfoliate dandruff. Both have antibacterial and antifungal properties as well.
Amla (Emblica officinalis) can be used as an oil and is chock-full of vitamin C, vitamin E, and antioxidants to nourish hair and maintain its shine. If your hair is dry and damaged, amla oil can help regulate oil production, as well as help hydrate and protect the hair shaft to improve luster. Just like other Ayurvedic herbs, it can be used as an oil or in powdered form to create hair masks.
Ayurvedic Head Massage
Most Ayurvedic herbs for hair work well as an oil to be massaged into the scalp. And while it’s nice to have someone do it for you, you can certainly achieve the same results on your own. Simply take your time, be gentle, and work the oil into your entire scalp.
Hair oiling might seem counterintuitive to those who suffer from oily hair, but different herbs address different needs and once the oil is rinsed out, you should be left with a fresh, clean scalp that has absorbed the Ayurvedic herbs you’re using to address the problem.
The Mane Point
It’s important to keep in mind that thin, brittle hair or hair loss can be caused by factors that natural remedies can’t address, such as heredity. And all the herbs in the world won’t make your hair long and lustrous if you’re not caring for your body by addressing any underlying illnesses or stressors.
Your body will devote its energy to essential organs and tissues first, like your liver and kidneys. Therefore, your hair follicles aren’t a priority. If you overwork your body and mind, you simply won’t have enough energy left over to nourish those “nonessential” parts.
Ayurveda is about balance, so your lifestyle is a major factor in your wellness, both inside and out. But the good news is that once you hone in on a problem you want to fix, following an Ayurvedic path to health might help you address other areas of your life that need some attention.
The path starts here: “Balance & Boost: 4 Ayurvedic Herbs for Immunity.”